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A collection of current topics, news, and press.

Officials: Plans on track to renovate commercialization station in Bluefield

By CHARLES BOOTHE Bluefield Daily Telegraph

22 May 2017

BLUEFIELD — Plans are on track to soon start renovation work on the commercialization station in Bluefield, and the city is busy working to recruit tenants.

We met with the engineering folks (recently) and we are about 90 percent done on the plan (for the renovations),” said Jim Spencer, economic development director for the city. “We will submit the final plans to the EDA (federal Economic Development Administration) in June for approval.”

The EDA grant for the project is just over $2 million with $510,000 from the Shott Foundation.

Spencer said work will include electrical upgrades, new lighting, doors and windows, among other upgrades.

The station is located in the old freight station on Bluefield Avenue and the grants were announced in October 2016.

Once final plans for the renovation are approved, work can start, he said.

We have to submit the plans to them (the EDA) and then (once approved) the work can go out to bid,” Spencer said.

The money for the project is ready to be used, he added, and the city is busy making plans for the station’s future.

We continue to market the facility and we are talking to a couple of potential tenants,” he said. “We are also continuing to finalize our operational policies and procedures to operate the incubator.”

The city has already been offering classes for entrepreneurs as part of its CREATE (Creating Resilient Economies by Assisting Transforming Entrepreneurs) Opportunities Initiative and continues to do so, he said, with a class on copyright rights set for June 13.

Spencer said in October when the grants were announced that many partners are involved in helping not only bring the station to fruition, but to provide the resources necessary to make it work.

Those partners include the Center for Applied Research & Technology (CART), Bluefield State College, TechConnect West Virginia, Concord University, American National University, AEP, Mercer County Technical Education Center, the Development Authority of the Great Bluefield Area, the Robert C. Byrd Institute, E.L. Robinson Engineering and others.

It’s all of us working together,” he said. “It’s a manufacturing and technology center,” with the overall purpose of moving ideas and innovations into the marketplace.

One start-up business, Autonomous Radio Controlled Equipment, is already operational inside of the center.

Spencer said when the renovations are finished, other businesses will hopefully be ready to move in.


By CHARLES BOOTHE Bluefield Daily Telegraph

May 22, 2017


CART Assisted, Client Wins! WVU student teams win big at 2017 WV Collegiate Business Plan Competition


picture 1West Virginia University students will have the opportunity to foster entrepreneurship in the state, after bringing home the top spots in all three categories at the 2017 West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Competition on April 21.

Winners of the 11th annual competition are Keith Heisler, a sophomore from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, majoring in aerospace engineering in the WVU Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources with his business, H2OLD IT; Matthew Byrd, a native of Ritchie County, and a wildlife and fisheries resources sophomore in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, with his business, Byrds and Bees Honey; and Brandon Lucke-Wold from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Zachary Wright from Bridgeport, dual M.D./Ph.D. students in the WVU School of Medicine with their business, SwifTag Systems.

The three winning teams were announced following three rounds of competition that spanned the entire academic year. A record 303 entries were submitted in this year’s West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition from a record-tying 15 West Virginia colleges and universities. The competition is hosted by the WVU BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“This was a record year for the business plan competition. As the judges deliberated, it was apparent that the decision-making was incredibly challenging because of the quality of business concepts and plans presented,” Julia Bolt, assistant director of the BrickStreet Center, which is housed in the WVU College of Business and Economics said. “The final round was another step for each of these teams toward the success of their viable businesses. We want them to know we are here to support not only the winners, but all participants in the competition as they grow the business landscape of our state.”

A panel of judges from across the country heard presentations from five competing teams in each of three categories. The categories include Lifestyle and Innovation, Hospitality and Tourism, and STEM.

Heisler claimed the victory in the Lifestyle and Innovation category with H2OLD IT, which provides innovative luxury products for living environments. The products provide comfort while also conserving natural resources and providing financial savings.

Byrd, who also made it to the final round of the competition in 2016, won the Hospitality and Tourism category with Byrds and Bees Honey. It is focused on producing high quality, great tasting, small-batch honey in West Virginia. Through ethical beekeeping practices, the company is committed to not only supplying quality honey, but also helping the declining bee population.

Lucke-Wold and Wright, with SwifTag Systems, won the STEM division of the competition. SwifTag Systems is the leader in laboratory animal tagging, tracking, and inventory. Using custom designed RFID technology, SwifTag has revolutionized how laboratory animals are tagged and tracked for pharmaceutical experiments. The system can save companies money each year by reducing paid man hours required for tagging and inventory of animals and eliminates errors in choosing the wrong animal for experiments.

“I wanted to solve a problem that happens in everyday life. I knew I could find a solution. People expend a lot of water resources waiting for their shower to warm up, so I created a product that redirects that cold water to be recycled. You don’t have to wait for your shower to warm up, and plus you’re saving energy and valuable resources,” Heisler said. “With the competition being over, I’m at the bottom of the hill now. It’s time to get out there, start the LLC and begin small-batch manufacturing to sell my product.”

“I made it to the finals as a freshman, and I knew I could do better, so I entered again this year. This year, I focused more on my financials and marketing, which was a lacking component from last year. I spent more time with the numbers, figuring out how many more hives I could have with the acreage I own and what the nectar sources were,” Byrd said. “I also focused on helping the declining bee population by increasing the hives I have and working on a good type of genetics, where my bees will be healthier and won’t require as much treatment. I want to create a healthier bee climate in the state of West Virginia.

“I think the key word for entrepreneurship in West Virginia is growth. The idea is to bring industries into the state that weren’t here before. I think WVU specifically has been extremely helpful,” Wright said. “[Winning the business plan competition] is a really great feeling. I felt like we had a strong presentation and covered everything we needed to do, and then hearing our names – my heart was racing. We are really excited about the funding from the competition because it will get us that much closer to getting our product to market.”

WVU BPC Wrightwold Presentation PhotoMore college students in West Virginia are participating in the statewide business plan competition than ever before, as the widespread initiative to propel entrepreneurship in the Mountain State seems popular among state colleges and universities. Student teams compete for the $10,000 first prize in each category, as well as accounting and legal services. The winning teams must turn their ideas into valid West Virginia businesses in a designated amount of time.

All indications from the state’s collegiate community are that students have business ideas they want to share.

“The role of entrepreneurship in higher education and in West Virginia’s statewide economy is undeniable,” Bolt said. “All of the students who have participated in the competition have undergone an incredible learning experience, and it’s certainly our hope that they undertake an entrepreneurial venture in our state. They make West Virginia’s business landscape that much stronger.”

Participating schools in the 2016-17 West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition include Alderson Broaddus University, Bethany College, Bluefield State College, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, New River Community and Technical College, Potomac State College of West Virginia University, Shepherd University, University of Charleston, West Liberty University, West Virginia State College, West Virginia University, West Virginia University Institute of Technology and West Virginia Wesleyan College.

The business plan competition has awarded more than $330,000 in prizes since it went to a statewide format more than a decade ago.

For further information on the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, visit http://busecon.wvu.edu/bpc/index.htm.


CONTACT: Julia Bolt, WVU College of Business and Economics

304.293.7221, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


TechConnect West Virginia’s ScaleUp West Virginia Program Helping Early-Stage Company Move Ahead

By TechConnectWV News


With the help of TechConnect West Virginia’s ScaleUp West Virginia program, an early-stage company created by two graduate students and an associate professor at West Virginia University is developing a new radio frequency-based tool to help make research laboratory environments more efficient.

Wright Wold Scientific was created in 2015 by Zach Wright, a graduate student in WVU’s Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences program; Brandon Lucke-Wold, a graduate student in the university’s Neurobiology and Anatomy program; and Dr. Daryl Reynolds, an associate professor in WVU’s Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The team recently added Brandon Cook, a student in WVU’s College of Business and Economics’ MBA program.

The company is developing a product it calls the SwiftTag Inventory System (patent pending). SwifTag is designed to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to inventory, identify and track laboratory animals more efficiently and without the need for the researcher to handle the animal.

The most sophisticated laboratory subject tracking system on the market today uses barcodes and barcode readers. That system still requires a researcher to handle animal subjects whenever information is required. Many laboratories still apply metal ear tags to their subjects for tracking and logging information by hand. SwifTag is unique in that it allows researchers to collect information without handling the subjects.

The idea for the SwifTag product was born out of Wright’s and Lucke-Wold’s own laboratory experiences.

Research laboratories are where solutions to critical health and environmental issues are discovered and developed,” Lucke-Wold said. “Zach and I realized that some of the most important processes and tools used in research haven’t been improved in decades. That’s when we developed the idea for our SwiftTag Inventory System.”

The Swiftag system uses small, plastic-encased electronic chips coupled with smartphone technology to collect and seamlessly integrate animal tagging and tracking information, thus significantly reducing the need to handle subjects.

Drawing on Wright’s and Lucke-Wold’s laboratory experiences, Dr. Reynolds, the company’s third principal, began developing the RFID-based equipment and software platforms that would enable the system.

As an early-stage company, Wright Wold Scientific recognized its need for outside support to move their idea forward. The company reached out to INNOVA Commercialization Group, an initiative of the Fairmont-based High Technology Foundation that provides business support, and seed and early-stage investment capital programs in support of commercialization opportunities. After learning more about Wright Wold Scientific’s idea and its unique opportunity in the market, Guy Peduto, director of INNOVA, enlisted the help of the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) in Huntington.

Working in a coordinated approach, INNOVA and RCBI have used their respective expertise to support the company in designing a working prototype. INNOVA is helping the group to refine its business plan and put in place organizational structures necessary for success. RCBI has used its design and prototyping expertise to help design and develop a prototype of the handheld device that will apply the RFID chip to the subject’s ear. The Center for Applied Research and Technology (CART) at Bluefield State College also contributed by providing valuable perspective on materials and technology strategies.

INNOVA, RCBI and CART are three of five sub-awardees in TechConnect West Virginia’s ScaleUp West Virginia program, an initiative made possible by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the State of West Virginia. The ScaleUp West Virginia program is helping West Virginia companies develop new products and technologies and move them to market; support small manufacturers in adopting advanced tools and processes; and promote increased entrepreneurial activity in our state. The program targets 40 counties, including many that have been particularly affected by the loss of mining jobs, as well as jobs directly related to the mining industry.

Anne Barth, TechConnect West Virginia’s executive director, said the project with Wright Wold Scientific represents West Virginia’s growing entrepreneurial activity and the ScaleUp West Virginia program’s capacity to leverage West Virginia-based expertise to support the state’s established companies and entrepreneurs.

Wright Wold Scientific

Wright Wold Scientific was born out of three West Virginians’ entrepreneurial vision and energy,” Barth said. “A part of TechConnect West Virginia’s mission is to connect young companies with the resources and expertise they need to move their product ideas to market. Our ScaleUp West Virginia program is providing resources that allow INNOVA and RCBI to help put an early-stage West Virginia company on a path toward success.”

WVU’s LaunchLab, the university’s resource center for business startups, sponsored the company’s participation in a recent SXSW PitchTexas Competition at the University of Texas. PitchTexas is an opportunity for the best startups from the across the nation to pitch their businesses, field questions from investors and entrepreneurs, and compete for up to $10,000 in prizes.

The Wright Wold team claimed a $2,000, 3rd place finish in the competition over teams from MIT, UCLA and more than 30 other universities.

Looking back on the competition, Zach Wright said, “SXSW and PitchTexas was an irreplaceable experience to not only gain feedback for our company on how to move forward but also to begin building relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs that are in a similar step in their startup processes. It was a bit intimidating looking at where the competition was coming from but, when we got there, we realized that we were just as prepared, and often more prepared, than other teams.”

The team says their next steps include securing funding to finalize its prototype, sourcing manufacturers, and completing beta-testing of the SwifTag and smartphone app. The goal is to make the product ready for market by this fall.

For more information on TechConnect West Virginia, ScaleUp West Virginia, and other TechConnect West Virginia programs, visit http://techconnectwv.org/innovation/programs/.

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“A Special Day to Grow Jobs” City of Bluefield receives $2 million grant for Commercialization Station

By Charlie Booth Bluefield Daily Telegraph

jenkinsBLUEFIELD — The City of Bluefield is receiving a $2,040,000 grant for its Commercialization Station on Bluefield Avenue.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (3rd District) joined city officials and others Thursday afternoon to make the announcement at the station, located in the former headquarters of the Bluefield Regional Transit Authority.

What a great day to be in Bluefield,” he said. “This is a special day to grow jobs.”

A matching grant of more than $500,000 will be included from the Shott Foundation, he added.

The $2 million grant is through the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) with funding that was included in the POWER initiative, a strategy to help communities struggling to cope with the impact of the loss of coal-related jobs.

Jenkins is on the appropriations committee, which earmarks which agencies receive those federal dollars. He said he works closely with the EDA and thanked the agency for providing the funding.

Jenkins said job creation is the goal of the station, a business incubator aimed at helping entrepreneurs.

Good jobs solve a lot of problems,” he said.

Jenkins said the station project, which was spearheaded by the city’s community and economic development director, Jim Spencer, took a vision then put the “pieces of the puzzle into place.”

We always want to be a partner with you in these efforts,” he said. “Let’s make an investment, and this is what it is. Thank you for allowing me to work with you.”

Jenkins said Mercer County, like many counties in this region, has “taken it on the chin (in economic woes),” and it takes local officials having a “clear vision” and working together to make it happen.

You are all awesome,” he said, also praising the Shott Foundation. “It’s an honor to work with you. We will work with you every step of the way.”

Del. John Shott, with the Shott Foundation, said the grant may be historic.

I can’t ever recall a day when we had an amount like this coming to Bluefield,” he said. “The spigot (of federal dollars) has finally opened for us.”

Shott pointed out three other foundation board members in attendance, Frank Wilkinson, Chandler Swope and Smokey Shott. “We are all really excited about this,” he said.

Bluefield Mayor Tom Cole could not attend the announcement but through a precorded video said Spencer started working on this project right after he was hired last year, and found the space and pursued the funding.

We are excited about the opportunities this brings to our region,” he said.

Bluefield City Manager Dane Rideout said the station project was the “brainchild” of Spencer.

This is a homerun,” he said of the grants, adding that it took a vision followed up with action. “That’s powerful.”

This is not about a single entity,” he said. “It’s about a partnership. This will train people (and provide jobs) so they can stay here. This is absolutely phenomenal.”

Spencer also emphasized that partnership.

Economic development is a team sport,” he said, calling Jenkins “our D.C. champion.”

Spencer said many partners are involved in helping not only bring the station to fruition, but to provide the resources necessary to make it work.

Those partners include the Center for Applied Research & Technology (CART), Bluefield State College, TechConnect West Virginia, Concord University, American National University, AEP, Mercer County Technical Education Center, the Development Authority of the Great Bluefield Area, the Robert C. Byrd Institute, E.L. Robinson Engineering and others.

It’s all of us working together,” he said, urging those in attendance to speak about the station to anyone having a business idea.

It’s a manufacturing and technology center,” he said, with the overall purpose of moving ideas and innovations into the marketplace.

One start-up business, Autonomous Radio Controlled Equipment, is already operational inside of the center.

The announcement took place in a large bay, and Spencer said three other bays at the station are available.

We want to fill them up as soon as possible,” he said, adding that anyone can visit the website mybluefied.org to learn the details of how to get started and possibly locating a business in the center.

An incubation application is included on that website.

Spencer said services provided by all of the partners involved in the station include incubation, office and production space, business networking, grant assistance, business coaching, funding, incentives, workforce training, manufacturing processes, technical support, business planning and entrepreneurship training.

Spencer said the money will be used for electrical upgrades, lighting, doors and other improvements to the 60,000-sq.-ft. structure.

Communities cannot sit back and do nothing about creating jobs, he added.

We need to be aggressive in economic development,” he said. “This is a great day.”

Contact Charles Boothe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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City of Bluefield awarded $2 million grant for business incubator

By Frances Peyton, WVVA Multimedia Journalist

City of Bluefield awarded 2 million grant for business incubator

A boost for economic development was announced on Thursday at the Commercialization Station in Bluefield, WV.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins teamed-up with local leaders to present a $2,040,000 grant to create an incubator for manufacturing companies.

"People just need a place to get started and we are creating that opportunity," says U.S. Rep Evan Jenkins.

Bluefield Economic Director Jim Spencer explains what this means for the community.

“It's almost like when a child is learning to ride a bicycle. Our incubator is just the same principle. To support small business tied to manufacturing and technology until they are ready to move out to their own facilities. So we want to grow jobs here,” says Spencer.

If you're a small business owner or someone with a great idea looking to get off the ground, visit the website mybluefield.org. Navigate to the business section, click on the tab that reads“Commercialization Station,” and fill out an application.
Joining leaders & neighbors in Bluefield to celebrate a $2M EDA grant for the Commercialization Center. pic.twitter.com/5uUvzwtRaC
— Rep. Evan Jenkins (@RepEvanJenkins) October 20, 2016

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CART: ingenuity to industry

c iconFrom applied research to technology transfer and training, unmanned systems to rapid prototyping, software development to program support and web solutions, CART transports the energy of ingenuity to the industries that power the world.